This is the story that made me really want to get writing on Real News of relevance to Pagans:
OK, it’s a commentary page rather than a News story. But it’s something that’s been on my mind for a while, and I find it hard to believe that I’m alone.
As pagans, we take the idea of the Goddess as Maiden, Mother and Crone pretty much for granted – it’s one of those things you learn right from the start, in the first (and fifty-first) Paganism 101 book.
The only time I’ve seen an alternative, in fact, is in a recent issue of Sagewoman magazine, suggesting an addition to the tripartate Lady – the Queen. This is the stage of womanhood after childbearing and rearing, but before menopause, when a woman really starts to live her life for herself. A lovely idea, and one I’d embrace wholeheartedly, if it were applicable.
But how many of us ladies have encountered a lack of place in such a system for us? (I know some gentlemen friends who feel similarly excluded from the God role, whether as homosexual, transgendered or simply for the same reasons I’m going into here, just from a male perspective – but I don’t think I’m equipped to discuss that, so will leave it to one of the chaps. Hopefully they’ll be able to read this post regardless. As last time, I promise it won’t turn into a feminist rant.)
I’m a woman in my thirties, who has yet to feel any broodiness or longing for a child. I won’t discount it as a future possibility, but from childhood myself, I never really saw it as something I’d want to do. As with the women in the article, there are a variety of reasons, and with the efficacy of birth control, I count myself fortune that I can continue with my life without any small attachments as yet.
This doesn’t mean I’m some sort of uncaring harridan, the old-school spinster type. I have a loving partner, pets and busy life with many friends I care for deeply. I am not beholden to my career either, simply to living my life as fully as I can, with my faith as a strong part of that.
However, as the BBC discovered, some women cannot take such a lifestyle choice quietly. I know of like-minded ladies who have been openly confronted with such wisdom as ‘if you don’t have children, you aren’t a proper woman’. Their fitness to BE women is actually questioned because they take the option open to them not to be mothers – and this is before their faith even enters the argument.
Even in the 21st century, women’s roles are still tacitly assumed to be limited to their gendered skills – specifically Jerry Hall’s famous quote. In pagan circles, as we struggle for recognition in the modern world while endeavouring to recognise our ancestry, there is still only the Maiden, Mother and Crone. What place in there for me?
When placed in ritual, I’ve seen the confused faces as roles are assigned and realisation dawns. I’m usually planted somewhere between the Maiden and the Mother (presumably No-longer-a-Maiden-but-Not-a-Mother-Yet).
Men don’t seem to have this problem in society generally – there’s no stigma against a ‘confirmed bachelor’ – but in pagan rites you somehow aren’t so confined. You may be Brother, Son, Warrior, Lover… the comparative workings of your loins are not (necessarily) up for public debate.
But there are options – we’ve all seen them. Acting as Priestess, you’re effectively ‘mother’ to the group as a whole (whether you are in daily life or not). We’ll all be Maidens and Crones, but are also fully able to act as Carers, with all the responsibility that this conveys, without having actually given birth ourselves.
I certainly understand the importance of mothers – both in actuality, as a central point of our being, and in the larger, global sense of Earth and Goddess. But can we not also be Women, strong in heart, mind and body, without a small person to confirm it?
I know my Goddess can.